A California biopharmaceutical company claims to have discovered a coronavirus antibody breakthrough that has shown 100% inhibition of COVID-19 in laboratory tests. Executives at Sorrento Therapeutics announced the possible coronavirus antibody treatment on Friday, and say it could be more effective than a vaccine in quickly combating COVID-19.
The San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics, an antibody-centric biopharma company that typically focuses on cancer, claims that it has developed an antibody treatment that shields healthy cells from COVID-19 and flushes the virus out of the body within four days, according to Fox News.
The company claims that one of its antibodies, STI-1499, has shown "100% inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 in laboratory tests."
"We want to emphasize there is a cure. There is a solution that works 100%," Sorrento's co-founder and CEO, Dr. Henry Ji, told Fox News. "If we have the neutralizing antibody in your body, you don't need the social distancing. You can open up a society without fear.
"We're actually so impressed with the data," Ji told BioSpace, a website that provides news on biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries. "One of the antibodies is so powerful that at a very low concentration it is able to 100% completely prevent infection or inhibit the infection. In our studies, not even one virus escaped from the antibody.
"When the antibody prevents a virus from entering a human cell, the virus cannot survive," Ji said. "If they cannot get into the cell, they cannot replicate. So it means that if we prevent the virus from getting the cell, the virus eventually dies out. The body clears out that virus."
"This puts its arms around the virus," Ji told Fox News. "It wraps around the virus and moves them out of the body."
STI-1499 is one of more than a billion antibodies that Sorrento Therapeutics had screened, but only 100 showed promise as a treatment for COVID-19.
The company plans to test STI-1499 on monkeys and possibly ferrets, two species that are susceptible to the novel coronavirus. If testing on animals is successful, Sorrento Therapeutics could begin testing the antibody in clinical trials of severe COVID-19 patients by mid-July. If the antibody treatment is effective and safe in patients, the company expects to begin a larger trial in August or possibly September.
"Hopefully we will be able to submit for approval before the end of the year or beginning of next year," said Mark Brunswick, senior vice president of Regulatory Affairs and Quality at Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc.
Health officials have said that a coronavirus vaccine is likely 12 or 18 months away. President Donald Trump has started "Operation Warp Speed," his fast-track program to develop a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year and have the U.S. military distribute it.
"This is the best solution," Ji said. "The point of making a vaccine is to generalize a neutralizing antibody. So, if you already have one, you don't need to the body to generate one from a vaccine. You've already provided it. You're cutting out the middleman."
Last week, Sorrento announced that it was teaming up with Mount Sinai Health System to jointly develop an antibody cocktail called "COVI-SHIELD" to treat the coronavirus.
"The collaboration between Mount Sinai and Sorrento aims to generate antibody products that would act as a 'protective shield' against SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection, potentially blocking and neutralizing the activity of the virus in naïve at-risk populations as well as recently infected individuals," Sorrento Therapeutics said in a news release.
"The pathway we're following right now is quite similar to the pathways used in antibody therapies for oncology indications, where an antibody is discovered that is reactive to a specific cancer marker, grown up in culture, and given to patients," Brunswick said. "So what we've done is identified an antibody that recognizes the COVID-19 virus and completely inhibits its binding to the specific receptor. This is grown up in vitro, in tissue culture, in cell fermenters."
"As soon as it is infused, that patient is now immune to the disease," Brunswick said to Fox News. "For the length of time, the antibody is in that system. So, if we were approved [by the FDA] today, everyone who gets that antibody can go back to work and have no fear of catching COVID-19."